Four chiral congeners of arachidonylethanolamide (anandamide) have been synthesized and evaluated for (a) their ability to bind to the cannabinoid receptor in rat forebrain membranes and (b) their pharmacological potency as measured by the compounds' ability to inhibit electrically-evoked contractions of the mouse vas deferens. The lead analog was also tested for its potency in vivo. Of the analogs tested, (R)-(+)-arachidonyl-1'-hydroxy-2'-propylamide [(R)-methanandamide] exhibited the highest affinity for the cannabinoid receptor with a Ki of 20 +/- 1.6 nM, 4-fold lower than that of anandamide (Ki = 78 +/- 2 nM). Moreover, determination of the cannabinoid binding affinity in the presence and absence of the protease inhibitor phenylmethanesulfonyl fluoride (PMSF) revealed that (R)-methanandamide possesses a remarkable stability to aminopeptidase hydrolysis. Pharmacological studies on mouse isolated vasa deferentia demonstrated that all four analogs produce concentration-related inhibition of the twitch response and the order of potency is the same as the rank order of the affinities of these agonists for cannabinoid binding sites. Furthermore, experiments with mice have demonstrated that (R)-methanandamide also possesses cannabimimetric properties in vivo, as established by the four tests of hypothermia, hypokinesia, ring immobility, and antinociception.